Suite for Piano


Suite for Piano

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  • Premiere: 28-31 May 2009 / Bass Performance Hall, Fort Worth, TX / Semi-Finals of the 2009 Van Cliburn International Piano Competition / Mariangela Vacatello, Kyu Yeon Kim, Di Wu, and Michial Lifits
  • Instrumentation: solo piano
  • Duration: 10'

I. Toccata
II. Sarabande
III. Aria
IV. Medley

Program note

Suite for Piano consists of four thematically related movements: The first movement, Toccata, is a virtuosic rondo whose first theme is a fugue subject I wrote as a student at Juilliard during the early eighties and always wanted to have some fun with, and a jazzy little riff based on an octatonic scale. The second movement, Sarabande, is written in the spirit of Leonard Bernstein's Anniversaries and is a musical portrait of my mother. Aria began as the very first sketch for my opera Amelia; in the story a little girl sings this music as an apostrophe to the stars. The final Medley takes a fragment of the traditional Irish ballad The Croppy Boy and subjects it to some brutal compositional chiaroscuro as it is intercut with ideas from the previous movements. I am a pianist, so I set myself specific challenges for each movement: the first highlights touch and velocity, the second voicing, the third a long singing line and pedaling, and the last dramatic shifts in color, tempo, and dynamics. A winner of the Cliburn Invitation Composition Competition, the suite served as a required contemporary work for the 2009 Van Cliburn International Piano Competition.

— Daron Hagen, 2009

Michael Lifits gave the NY premiere at Weill Recital Hall

Michael Lifits gave the NY premiere at Weill Recital Hall

(Banner photo: Di Wu)


Hagen's four-section Suite was well-presented, especially a folksy third section, gently pulsing, interrupted by just a tinge of disquiet [by Van Clibrun Competition semifinalist Mariangela Vacatello].

--Chris Shull, Fort Worth Star-Telegram, 5/29/09

I'm even more jazzed about Di Wu [who] proved again that my favorite movement in Hagen's Suite for Piano is the aria, when a haunting melody drifts into a prairie scene from a Copland ballet -- and then, on a note, back again.

--Chris Shull, Fort Worth Star-Telegram, 5/31/09

Hagen's Suite for Piano was also intelligently and effectively crafted [by pianist Michail Lifits], from its popping, pointillistic Toccata to a Medley which revisited the piece's previous movements by mimicking material -- but also color, weight and attitude.

--Chris Shull, Fort Worth Star-Telegram, 5/31/09

Mariangela Vacatello's premiere of Daron Hagen’s Suite for Piano (another of the required new pieces) introduced a pleasant work of varied character, at times playful, lyrical and stormy. She played it from memory and made an impressive advocate.

--Olin Chism, KERA Art&Seek, 5/28/09

At first blush, I enjoyed the Hagen piece – its octatonic, virtuosic fugue in the first movement, the lyrical second and third movements, and the helter-skelter finale. I expect it will stand up to repeated hearings.

--Matt Erikson WRR Classical 101.1 FM, 5/28/09

[Michail Lifits'] version of the Hagen Suite was full of character, imagination and sincerity; the lyrical lines in the middle movements were beautifully delineated. This was easily the best performance we heard, and I'm willing to admit that there's more to it than I had thought.

-- Gregory Allen, Performance Today, American Public Media, 6/2/09

Michail Lifits then turned to the Hagen suite and gave it, from memory, the best performance of the competition.  This could win the Best Performance of a Commissioned Work award.

-- Mike Winter, Van Cliburn Foundation Competition Blog, 6/1/09

The Hagen suite had not been favorite commissioned work until now. [Di Wu] sure knows how to bring it to life. Once again, the crisp, fast playing sparkles; the lyrical bits are eloquent and tender, and the incisive bits really have bite. What a difference a performer makes! Again: brilliant.

-- Mike Winter, Van Cliburn Foundation Competition Blog, 5/30/09

Vacatello made a fetching case, though, for the Hagen, progressing from chatting Toccata to flowing Sarabande, from dreamy Aria to stop-and-start Medley.

— Scott Cantrell, Dallas Morning News, 5/29/09

Die knapp zehnminütige "Suite for piano" des 1961 geborenen Amerikaners Daron Hagen war mit ihren vier motorisch dichten, oft perkussiv geprägten Miniatur-Sätzen eine eher launige Einlage. [Performed by Michail Lifits.]

--Wiesbadener Tagblat, 12/3/09